Mixed martial arts: Israel Adesanya to defend middleweight title against longtime rival Alex Pereira at UFC 281

Kiwi-Nigerian Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight title against his longtime rival Alex Pereira at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on November 13 (NZ time).

The rumoured fight was confirmed by the organisation, and will serve as the main event, with Dustin Poirer and Michal Chandler also expected to be announced on the card.

Adesanya previously fought Pereira twice in kickboxing, and was beaten in both, including a devastating knockout loss in 2017.

But it is the Brazilian chasing the City Kickboxing star, after signing with the UFC in 2021 after becoming a household name at Glory.

A potential bout between the two has long been discussed among fans and media alike, but few saw Pereira being given a title shot so soon.

Just three fights into his UFC career, Pereira will serve as Adesanya's seventh title-defence since unifying the belt in his KO win over Robert Whittaker in 2019.

Having basically cleaned out the middleweight division, UFC boss Dana White and the orginsation's match-makers were left with no choice but to give Pereira the shot at the belt.

The two have never met in an MMA cage before, but their previous two fights in the ring have fans predicting the toughest challenge yet for Adesanya.

His two losses against Pereira in kickboxing weren't without controversy however, after a contentious decision loss in their first encounter.

And whilst he was on the receiving end of a devastating left hook by the Brazilian in the rematch, many had Adesanya winning on the scorecards before the knockout loss.